Ottoman Egypt in the mid eighteenth century- Local Interest Groups and Their Connection with and Rebellions against the Sublime Porte and Resistance to State Authority
MÜCAHİDE NİHAL ENGEL
A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies College of Arts and Law University of Birmingham July 2017
University of Birmingham Research Archive
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation.
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This research is an attempt to understand the relations between the Ottoman imperial government and the local administrators of Egypt, namely the mamluk beys. Gaining more financial and political power, the mamluk beys commenced to challenge the authority of the Ottoman governor of Egypt in the mid-eighteenth century alongside the incessant struggles between each other. Using a variety of Ottoman archival documents and contemporary narrative sources, I examine the factors behind the mamluk beys’ authority expansion that resulted in uprising of Ali Bey al-Kabir (Bulutkapan).
Throughout the dissertation I pursue two arguments, which address key issues in Ottoman political historiography. The first argument concerns with the underlying causes of the mamluk beys’ extended authority. I show that short-tenured governors encountered with financially and politically powerful local components, which may be considered as a result of the decentralized administration system of the Ottoman Empire. Mamluk beys’ ambition to accumulate more financial income led them to contact European consuls directly in order to open Suez trade for them.
The second argument concerns the centre-periphery relations of the Ottoman Empire. I show that, although they gained power and challenged the pasha, the mamluk beys did not establish an autonomous administration during the eighteenth century. The Ottoman Empire managed the short-term uprising of Ali Bey quickly by taking due precautions. However, the mamluk beys’ ambition and struggles resulted in semi-autonomous local administrators during the next century, although they continued to stay under the Ottoman administration.
This research would not have been completed without numerous people’s help and support. I owe many acknowledgements to teachers, friends and family. Starting with teachers, my first and foremost thanks and gratitude is for my supervisor, Dr. Rhoads Murphey. He was always ready to offer his guidance and instruction, even during the time period that we lived in different countries. He has always given his time and expertise generously. During Dr. Murphey’s absence in Birmingham, Dr. Ruth Macrides provided a supervisor’s provision. I am also grateful for her support that she did not spare albeit her busy schedule. I am also grateful to Dr. Steve Morewood whose comments and advice helped me in the beginning of my research.
Prior to PhD, I developed most skills and acquired background in the history of Ottoman Empire in Istanbul during my undergraduate and Master’s education. I should thank to Professor İdris Bostan, who had supervised my M.A. research in Istanbul University and kindled my interest in the Ottoman Egypt. I advanced my ability to read early modern and modern period of Ottoman paleography in Professor Feridun Emcen’s classes. Also, Professor Tufan Buzpınar was always there when I needed for academic advice. Their contribution in this research is beyond circumstantial. I also thank my examiners Dr. Marios Hadjianastasis and Dr. Michael Talbot for their valuable advices and criticisms, which helped my study to become a better research.
During my PhD, I lived in different cities of the UK. Luckily, I never deprived from good people’s support and friendship. Above all, my special thanks go to Ayşe Kara. She was more than a friend and a colleague; she has become a sister to me. I also thank to Ebtisam al-Gerafi for being a friend and a colleague besides helping me to reach certain sources. During my research in the Prime Minister’s Archives, her presence made my time for research easier
and fun in Istanbul. During the first years of my research, I was surrounded by a wonderful group of friends in Birmingham: Dilara Dal, Ali Miynat, Maria Vrij, Seyit Özkutlu, Onur Usta, Gemma Masson, Önder İşlek, Doğan Kaya, Aslıhan Alparslan, and Esra Erdinç. Thanks to their friendship I never felt the difficulty of studying far away from my home country. I also owe a debt of gratitude to Rebecca Bayram for her friendship and valuable advices. In addition, Şeyma Biçer Hazır, Oğuzhan Hazır, Serkan Yazıcı, Mehmet Mart, Zeynep Duran Karaöz, İsmail Karaöz and many others were there whenever I needed a friend’s help in Reading.
My family has been most supportive of my education. It is thanks to my parents, Yücel and Hasan that I achieved to complete my education. They have always been generous and encouraging to me. I also want to thank to my siblings Gülseren, Tuba, Kübra, Enes, my nephew Ahmet Kerem and my niece Asude Neva for their endless support and love. My family delivered their love and compassion to overseas, which helped me to cope with the difficulties of graduate education.
Finally, and mostly, I want to thank İlkay, whose contrubition to my finishing this degree is immeasurable. İlkay has supported in many ways throughout my education in the UK, despite the fact that it was a very difficult period of time in his life. His emotional support and energy made me believe that I can finish this study. I dedicate this dissertation to him and I believe he will complete his dissertation of much better quality.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ... 1
DECENTRALIZATION AND EMERGENCE OF REGIONAL ELITES ... 9
COMPARISON OF THE PATTERN OF DECENTRALIZATION IN EGYPT WITH THAT FOUND IN OTHER REGIONS ... 15
PATTERN OF DECENTRALIZATION IN SYRIA:... 16
PATTERN OF DECENTRALIZATION IN NORTHERN IRAQ:THE CASE OF MOSUL: ... 21
THE CASE OF EGYPT:TYPICAL OR EXCEPTIONAL? ... 23
THE STATE OF THE FIELD IN RESEARCH ON OTTOMAN EGYPT ... 29
SOURCES AND STRUCTURE ... 36
CHAPTER I: REBELLION ... 41
OTHER REBELLIONS BEFORE ALI BEY’S UPRISING ... 46
THE CONCEPTION OF THE UPRISING IN EGYPT:REBELLION,MUTINY, OR UPRISING:ALL OR NONE? ... 54
NOTIONS AND TITLES:BEING A ŞEYHÜLBELED IN THE BEGINNING AND AT THE END OF THE CENTURY... 64
POLITICAL EVENTS THAT PREPARED THE WAY FOR ALI BEY’S ENLARGED AUTHORITY ... 67
THE CONTRASTING NARRATIVES OF THE CONTEMPORARY SOURCES:THE REBELLION OF ALI BEY AL-KABIR IN THE CHRONICLES ... 72
OFFICIAL HISTORIOGRAPHY OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE... 73
LOCAL CHRONICLES ... 86
CHAPTER CONCLUSION ... 95
CHAPTER II: ECONOMIC CONDITIONS AND EUROPEAN COMMERCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND INTERESTS IN EGYPT... 98
SECTION 1:THE ECONOMIC CONDITION OF EGYPT IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY ... 100
SECTION 2:EUROPEAN COMMERCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND INTERESTS IN EGYPT ... 123
CHAPTER CONCLUSION ... 147
CHAPTER III: IRSALIYE AND UPRISING ... 150
THE ANNUAL TRIBUTE:IRSALIYE-I HAZINE AND REBELLION ... 153
EXCESSIVE EXPENDITURE ... 161
THE EMIRULHAJJ AND IRSALIYE ... 175
THE TRIANGLE OF INTERESTS:IRSALIYE-I HAZINE,MAMLUK BEYS AND GOVERNORS ... 176
TAXATION OF THE LAND IN OTTOMAN EGYPT AND THE PROVINCIAL SOCIETY ... 184
CHAPTER CONCLUSION ... 192
CHAPTER IV: REPRESENTATION OF THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT IN EGYPT: GOVERNORS... 195
THE GOVERNORS AND LOCAL INTEREST GROUPS: A CONFLICT OR PURSUIT OF FINANCIAL POWER
AND AUTHORITY? ... 221
THE PREVALENCE OF CHANGE AND TRANSFORMATION:THE ADJUSTMENT OF THE GOVERNOR’S AUTHORITY IN EGYPT ... 229
CHAPTER CONCLUSION ... 234
GENERAL CONCLUSION ... 239
APPENDICES ... 246
Notes on Transliteration
Both Ottoman Turkish and Arabic sources are used in this study. The names and titles of Ottoman officials, institutions and local offices and also the titles of books in Ottoman Turkish as well as transliteration of the parts from the archival documents are rendered according to transliteration system of Ottoman Turkish. The titles of Ottoman officials (i.e., vali), institutions (i.e., sancakbeyliği) and local officials (i.e., şeyhülbeled), and technical terms such as irsaliye or defterdar have been italicised in the thesis. However, some terms that are common enough to have entered the English language and frequently repeated words such as sultan, vizier, bey or mamluk are not italicised. Bey is capitalized when it is used as a part of title. Also, the word of mamluk is capitalized when it refers to a dynasty or institution as in the Mamluk sultanate, Neo-Mamluk or Mamluk households. But on its own, mamluk or mamluks, or mamluk beys are left without capitals.
Egyptian place names and titles of books in Arabic that are cited in the bibliography and footnotes are rendered according to Arabic transliteration system. However, I have employed rules for Turkish and Ottoman transcription elsewhere in the thesis and for the rendering of some proper names, e.g., Mehmed, İbrahim and Rıdvan. When it comes to titles, I preferred Arabic transliteration for Ali Bey al-Kabir, since Ali Bey is known in the literature mostly with the descriptor al-Kabir. However, his mamluk Mehmed Bey’s title is referred in Turkish transliteration as Ebu’z-Zeheb.
ABBREVIATIONS M Muharrem S Safer RA Rebiülevvel R Rebiülahir CA Cemaziyelevvel C Cemaziyelahir B Receb Ş Şaban N Ramazan L Şevval ZA Zilkade Z Zilhicce
MD Mühimme Defter Series
MMD Mühimme-i Mısır Defter Series
TSMA Topkapı Palace Museum Archives
This study examines the local administrators of Egypt, ‘the mamluk beys’, their relationship with one another and with the central government, by focusing on Ali Bey
al-Kabir’s “uprising” against the Porte between 1768 and 1772.1 The topic requires an
assessment of the political and financial administration of Ottoman Egypt in the mid-eighteenth century using a multi-perspective approach. The political milieu of the mid-eighteenth century Ottoman Empire was composed of a three-partite society: state power, provincial
notables, and the people (namely reaya). This research, depending on empirical data drawn
from the Prime Minister’s Archives in Istanbul, reveals a complex and complicated network of relationships between the imperial government and provincial notables of Egypt, which cannot be captured by simple explanations and standard clichés. This study will scrutinize the mamluk beys, who formed the local administration body of Egypt in order to shed light on mid-eighteenth century Ottoman Egypt and make a convincing interpretation of actual power relations.
The study aims to be a part of a growing body of scholarship on eighteenth century Ottoman Egypt by focusing on its position within Ottoman provincial administration in the mid-eighteenth century. Ali Bey’s uprising, which took place in the second half of the eighteenth century in a distant province, comprises of some key aspects of the provincial administration of the Ottoman Empire. The ascendancy of the local notables in the provinces and their actions, which included occassional challenge against the administration of the central government of the empire, is subject of numerous studies. Positioning these local notables in the frame of the Ottoman provincial administration and assessing their situation
1 Ali Bey was among the most powerful local figures of the eighteenth century Ottoman Egypt. He was the leader of
Kazdağlı household, and was known in Turkish sources as Bulutkapan (cloud catcher). In this study he will be referred as Ali Bey al-Kabir, as he was known in Ottoman Egypt and his contemporary Egyptian chronicler al-Jabarti referred to him.
within the context of Ottoman legality has been a problematic theme in the historiography. Evaluating Ottoman Egypt in the mid-eighteenth century within the context of decentralization paradigm, this research aims to answer a number of questions about the motivations behind Ali Bey’s uprising. These issues mainly revolve around the relationship between the imperial and provincial administration, which consequently indicates the ascendancy of local notables, the focus of power in the province, as well as financial concerns, and foreign relations.
The first question of this research is about the conception of rebellion in the second half of the eighteenth century. A number of case studies on the local notables in the seventeenth and eighteenth century suggest that acting against the central government was not always perceived as a rebellion by the central government. While a number of local notables were forgiven and were bestowed administrative positions, Ali Bey was labelled as a rebel by the central government. Therefore, the question is when and where did Ali Bey cross the line of legality and was announced as a rebel. This thesis will investigate Ali Bey’s and his counterparts’ activities and their network of relationships in terms of provincial politics, foreign relations and influence on the province, and finance. Exploring the motivations of Ali Bey, another issue about his rebellion is finance. The archival evidence suggests that the mamluk beys were in the effort of channeling financial sources to their household. This point reveals the question of the financial and economic position of the province and mamluk beys’ effort to acquire more wealth. Did mamluk beys have a control over the financial sources? Was there a shift between the holders of the revenue source in the second half of the eighteenth century? Another point that deserves to be focused is holding the authority in the
province. It is known that the mamluk beys occupied high positions such as şeyhülbeled and
and authority in the province. This research will try to answer whether mamluk beys in high positions challenged the authority of governor appointed by the central government. In addition, Egypt was at crossroad of commercial centres, and a number of European countries consuls inhabited and traded in certain cities of Egypt. Did the agents of the European countries have any influence on the local notables’ resistance to state authority? Did the French- British rivalry on the Mediterranean and Indian trade have an encouraging influence on the mamluk beys’ action? The study will examine the aforementioned topics in the time period between the 1740s and the 1780s by centring on Ali Bey’s tenure of office as şeyhülbeled between 1760 and 1772.
This time period has two significative aspects due to the process that the Ottoman Empire experienced, and Ali Bey’s actions in Egypt, which consequently contributed to the political instability experienced in Egypt in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. First, it was before and during Russia-Ottoman war between 1768-1772, which had undeniable negative effects on the empire. The second issue is about the Ottoman provincial administration in Egypt before the French expedition, which had consequently major effects on Ottoman Egypt’s political fabric. Existing historiography mostly focuses on the nineteenth century Egypt. However, in order to evaluate the nineteenth century’s developments, it is crucial to understand the second half of the eighteenth century. For this reason, this study will focus on the mid-eighteenth century, from the 1740s to 1770s. The latter part of Ali Bey’s rule overlaps with the Russo-Ottoman war (1768-1774), which is often claimed to have consequently had a great influence on the Ottoman Empire’s manpower and financial sources
in the late eighteenth century.2 During this period the imperial government’s relationship with
2 A war is a huge organizational task that requires a large amount of money. For this war, which lasted a period of four years
and two months, the Ottoman Empire spent around 33 million guruş [1 guruş equals to 40 paras] whereas the annual budget of the empire was running on 14-15 million guruş. For a detail see Virginia Aksan, “Whatever Happened to the Janissaries? Mobilization for the 1768-1774 Russo-Ottoman War”, War in History, 1998; 5; 23, p. 27-30.
provincial notables, who supported the Empire in meeting demands of manpower and finance, is a topic of central importance.
The Russo-Ottoman war of 1768-1774 had a momentous impact on state-province relations both during and after the war. During the war, when the central government focused on the problems that the war brought, the provincial elites had the opportunity to test their limits in the provinces. In fact, it was in the form of a temporary enjoying of a power vacuum in the province rather than a structural administration flaw or an incessant political conflict. It can be suggested that the financial and political milieu of war produced an appropriate environment for rebellions and uprisings. It was not the first time that the Ottoman Empire had been forced to confront such problems. For example, in the early seventeenth century the central government was trying to cope with two on-going war fronts when the famous Celali revolts broke out, which agonized the empire for long years in the early seventeenth century. However, historians claim that the empire’s defeat had a transformative influence after the Russo-Ottoman war, on central government’s relationship with provincial notables, which had
formerly depended on a relationship of mutual benefit.3 It strengthened provincial elites’ hand
against the Porte. But still, the Ottoman central government maintained its strong political and economic influence on the provinces.
It is important to highlight that the time period and data that study aims to investigate is beyond the debate of modernisation and globality framework. First of all, it was still pre-modern age and transportation means were restricted in terms of pace and the limit of cargo in the mid-eighteenth century. Mainly, the developments such as invention of steamships and its employement in the Indian Ocean’s trading, as well as occupation of Aden by the Britain
3 Quataert and Khoury mention the impact of the Russo-Ottoman war of 1768-1774 on the relationship between the central
government and provincial elites: Donald Quataert, The Ottoman Empire 1700-1922, (Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 49; Dina Rizk Khoury, “The Ottoman Centre versus provincial power-holders: an analysis of the historiography” in Suraiya Faroqhi ed. The Cambridge History of Turkey, vol. 3, (Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 135
made an impact on the globalisation of the trading systems. However, this study covers the period before such developments until the 1780s. Therefore, the theories and paradigms about these new trends in the world’s trade are beyond this study. Instead, the ascendancy of local elements against the Ottoman central government’s representatives and paradigm of centralization/decentralization will be employed in the study as in this period the Ottoman imperial centre and provinces have been a stage for power struggles between the interest groups.
In our case in eighteenth century Ottoman Egypt, mamluk beys were actively involved in the local administrative and financial establishments of Ottoman Egypt until the French expedition (1798). As is well known, the term mamluk meant slave and referred to young men who were born outside of Egypt, enslaved through wars or invasions, and brought to the province. High-ranking mamluk beys brought in this menpower. Mamluks were recruited into households where they were trained in administrative and military skills. In accordance with their talents and skills, these mamluks were manumitted and continued to serve their masters. For the modern individuals, the term mamluk gives the impression of real slaves being employed in the Ottoman administrative ranks. However, the administrative
terminology of mamluk in the context of the Ottoman Egypt indicates a de facto component
of the provincial administrative system charged with overseeing financial and political affairs. “Mamluk”, whose literal meaning is ‘slave’, was only a word that referred to their origins and
did not include any meaning of restriction in their activities in provincial politics.4 These
people acted and lived as a powerful part of the Ottoman provincial administrative system, rather than being real slaves, and they were promoted to the highest ranks in the provincial administration. During the time period that this study covers, most of the significant local
administrative positions including the posts of emirulhajj, (hajj commander), defterdar, (chief
treasurer), kaşif and sancak beyi (governors of the sub provinces) were occupied by
manumitted mamluk beys of the Kazdağlı household. Mostly, the regimental officers were among the mamluk beys as well. The military system was intertwined with the mamluk
households.5 Those mamluk beys were in key positions, having influence on provincial
politics, and sometimes their influence extended beyond Egypt. For example, emirulhajj had a control on the coffee trade between Jidda and Egypt as he was assigned the tax, which was collected from the coffee trade. He also, as a result of his duty, was in contact with the
semi-autonomous administration of the Hijaz. For example, in one instance, the sherif of Mecca
increased the tax rate of coffee and as a result coffee prices increased in Istanbul. The Porte
demanded Ali Bey al-Kabir, as he was the emirulhajj, to meet with the sherif and to discuss
decreasing the tax.6
Mamluk beys were an inseparable part of the bureaucracy in Cairo and they were actively involved in the central government’s policies regarding Egypt. Their positions in the Ottoman Egypt’s bureaucracy offered them a large share from the province’s wealth. Nevertheless, mamluk beys mostly developed good relations with the Porte so that they could keep their interests coming from different income sources such as tax farming or commanding the hajj caravan. However, their involvement in the provincial politics occasionally led mamluk beys to test their limits with the central government. Ali Bey al-Kabir who held the
position of şeyhülbeled in Egypt in 1760, eliminated his potential rivals and lobbied for the
dismissal of two governors of Egypt that were appointed by the central government in the years 1766-68. After strengthening his position in Egypt, Ali Bey extended his political and financial ambitions outside Egypt: first Hijaz, then Syria. Ali Bey’s involvement in other
5 Jane Hathaway, The Politics of households in Ottoman Egypt The Rise of Qazdağlıs, (Cambridge University Press:
Cambridge, 1997), p. 84
provinces’ politics was regarded by the Porte as a gesture of “rebellion” at the time, and required an intervention by the central government. His closest mamluk, Mehmed Bey Ebu’z-zeheb betrayed Ali Bey and took over the administration in Cairo. After Mehmed Bey’s death in 1775, Cairo became a scene for instability, which required an imperial intervention in 1786. Environmental factors such as famine and plague contributed to this instability as well and the eighteenth century ended with the French expedition.
A considerable part of the historiography produced before the 1990s tended to
propose that, during Ali Bey’s tenure of the office of şeyhülbeled, there was ‘objection and
protest’ against Ottoman sovereignty in Egypt. Some historians claim that Ali Bey’s political and financial policies manifested a ‘counter stance’ and produced an alternative
administration.7 Contrary to the claim put forward in the existing historiography, which
positions Ali Bey al-Kabir as a local rebellious administrator who tried to become independent from the Ottoman Empire, my thesis contends that Ali Bey was a political figure of eighteenth century Egypt, who tested his limits and took advantage of the decentralized administration of the empire. This study investigates Ali Bey’s action in terms of decentralization of Ottoman administrational system, redefines it, and scrutinizes its causes and results. An exhaustive research will help to illustrate the motivations behind Ali Bey’s resistance to the Porte, and his desire to extend his sphere of influence outside Egypt.
Without exception, the imperial historians, i.e. Enveri, considered Ali Bey’s
extension of his authority outside Egypt as an insurrection and rebellion against the Porte in the eighteenth century. However, some modern historians have added the notion of “an
7 This argument is suggested by following authors: Daniel Crecelius, The Roots of Modern Egypt: a study of the regimes of
‘Ali Bey al-Kabir and Muhammad Bey Abu al-Dhahab, 1760-1775, (Minneapolis and Chicago: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1981), p. 6; See also, D. Crecelius, “Egypt in the Eighteenth Century” in M. W. Daly ed., Cambridge History of Egypt, Vol. 2: Modern Egypt, from 1517 to the End of the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 59-86; Michael Winter, Egyptian Society Under Ottoman Rule 1517-1798, (London and New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 25; Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot, A Short History of Modern Egypt, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).
attempt to re-establish the Mamluk Sultanate” 8, despite the fact that contemporary
historiography does not make any reference to a Mamluk revival in Ali Bey’s activity.9 This
study seeks to deconstruct this hypothesis through a detailed examination of the relationship between central government and provincial administration.
Measuring the real-world limits of Ali Bey’s authority in Egypt, and making a proper assessment of his “uprising” against the Porte requires a detailed scrutiny of four aspects of power-sharing that were faced by the central government in Istanbul and provincial administrators in Cairo. The first aspect revolves around the relationship between political actors of Egypt and central government; namely, Ottoman governor, şeyhülbeled, local gentry of Egypt including ulema, merchants, and mamluk households. The change of the local administrators’ command on the provincial sources can be considered as a distinctive motive and result in this relationship. The second issue centres on the financial situation of the province before and during Ali Bey’s authority. The political environment of the Ottoman Empire including internal and external politics is considered as the third component of approach for this study. Finally, the European countries’, especially Britain and France’s rivalries, especially over the trade in India and their ambitions to establish colonies in the long run during the second half of the eighteenth century had an influence of their attitude towards Egyptian local elites. All four aspects are to be explored under the light of state-province relations. Every chapter of this study is underlying and explaining one of the decisive components of eighteenth century Egypt’s politics and all aspects revolve around the relationship between the central government and provincial society.
8 Crecelius, The Roots of Modern Egypt, p. 8; Winter, Egyptian Society, p. 25; Marsot, A Short History of Modern Egypt;
Andrew James McGregor, A military history of Modern Egypt From the Ottoman conquest to the Ramadan War, (Westport, Connecticut and London: Praeger Security International, 2006), p. 33; Muhammad Rif’at Ramazan, Ali Bey al-Kabir, (Cairo, 1950), p. 15
9 For my thesis I consulted Abdurrahman b. Hasan al-Jabarti as the local historian and his account: Aja’ib al-Athar
fi’l-Tarajim wa’l-Akhbar, Abdurrahim Abdurrahman Abdurrahim, ed., (Cairo, 1997), and Enveri Sadullah Efendi as the imperial historian and his account: Muharrem Saffet Calışkan, (Vekayinuvis) Enveri Sadullah Efendi ve Tarihinin I. cildinin Metin ve Tahlili(1182-1188/1768-1774), Unpublished PhD thesis, (Istanbul, 2000).
Instead of concentrating on the discourse of decline, the modernization paradigm or the proto-nationalist approach, this study will evaluate Ali Bey’s uprising and the mid-eighteenth century through the lens of decentralization, which will help us to see whether his action was a stance against the Ottoman Empire’s imperial attitude and sovereignty, or merely
an enjoyment of the extended boundaries of the Empire’s administration.10
Analysing and clarifying the political aspect of the uprising as well as reviewing the socio-political dynamics of the province in an era of conflict among the local authorities will put forward a new perspective to understanding mid-eighteenth century Ottoman Egypt. This study aims to provide a coherent illustration of the era before the French expedition in 1798 and Mehmed Ali Pasha’s rule in the beginning of the nineteenth century, which put an end to the Mamluk administration in Egypt. By examining the financial registers and decree records that externalize the relationship between the province of Egypt and the central government, this analysis aims to be the first detailed research to focus on the essential foundations of Ali Bey’s “uprising” against the Porte. In addition to providing a first-hand account and realistic factual data, the archival documents help to position Egypt as a province of the Ottoman Empire rather than an autonomous principality.
Decentralization and emergence of regional elites
The thesis that the eighteenth century was the decline period for the Ottoman Empire is now mostly discredited. One of the most significant characteristics of the eighteenth century Ottoman Empire’s political history and historiography is recently shaped by, and
10 About decentralization see Halil Inalcik, “Centralization and Decentralization in Ottoman Administration” in Thomas Naff
and Roger Owen, eds., Studies in eighteenth century Islamic History, (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1977); Leslie Peirce, Morality Tales Law and Gender in the Ottoman Court of Aintab, (University of California Press, 2003) Salzmann proposes ‘centripetal decentralization’: Ariel Salzmann, “An ancient regime revisited: privatization and political economy in the eighteenth-century Ottoman Empire, Politics&Society, 21/4 (1993), 393-423; Bruce Masters, “Power and Society in Aleppo in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries”, Revue du Monde Musulman et de la Medirettanee 62, 4 (1991), 151-8; Khoury claims that the decentralization paradigm has its own deficiencies in explaining the better integration of the provinces with the imperial government in the eighteenth century: Dina Rizk Khoury, State and provincial society in the Ottoman Empire, Mosul 1540-1834, (Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 9; James E. Baldwin, Islamic Law and Empire in Ottoman Cairo, (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), p. 141
focuses on the notion of decentralization. By the late sixteenth and seventeenth century, decentralization of the imperial administration system resulted in the emergence of strong local elites all around the empire. Inalcik explains the emergence of local elites as a result of changes in the land tenure system. When the governors appointed local elites as operative
factors in the provinces for their arpalıks, this strengthened the position of local elites.11 On
the other hand, the central government’s new land administration policy, life-long tax farms called malikane caused an increase in the numbers of local notables.
Egypt passed through a period of administrative and political transformation during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the eighteenth century Egypt politics, the mamluk beys became active. The factional conflicts fed the households as well as shifting the provincial revenues, in the case of eighteenth century Egypt, from the Ottoman officers to local officers. Because of the political rivalry and financial expediencies, mamluk beys vied with each other and with the central government. These confrontations sometimes evolved
into disobedience and uprisings in the eighteenth century.12
Nevertheless, it should be recognized that such changes were not peculiar to the province of Egypt. In other provinces of the empire, change and transformation were also in
progress; Syria, Iraq, Cyprus, Aintab, Balkans, as well as the imperial capital.13 The political
power shifted from the sultan in person to sultanic households such as those maintained by
11 Inalcik, “Centralization and Decentralization”, p. 31
12 Two examples for rebellious administrators in the eighteenth century are Çerkes Mehmed Bey in the 1730s and Ali Bey
al-Kabir in the 1770s.
13 For Cyprus see Marc Aymes, A Provincial History of the Ottoman Empire: Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean in the
nineteenth century, (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014) and Antonis Hadjikyiracou, “The Province goes to the center: the case of Hadjiyorgakis Kornesios, dragoman of Cyprus” in Christine Isom-Verhaaren and Kent F. Schull eds., Living in the Ottoman Realm: Sultans, Subjects, and Elites, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016); For Balkans see F. F. Anscombe, State, Faith, and Nation in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Lands, (Cambridge University Press, 2014); For Iraq see Dina Rizk Khoury, State and provincial society in the Ottoman Empire, Mosul 1540-1834, (Cambridge University Press, 1997); For Syria see Karl Barbir, Ottoman Rule in Damascus 1708-1758, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1980)
valide sultans, vezirs and pashas.14 This shift imposed important influences in the provinces. Provincial notables dominated all over the empire; however, decentralization had different features in different provinces. In what follows, the large provinces in the south of the empire will be compared with Egypt.
In the eighteenth century the relationship between the central government and provincial elites depended on mutual need, which causes and also explains the interesting and complex interaction amongst them. Meeting the central government’s need for soldiers (or the need for cash in Egypt’s case) provided provincial notables an advantage against Istanbul. Yet, their need of state’s approval and support against their rivals in the province made them dependant on the Porte. Considering this mutual need between the Porte and provincial notables, it seems that it worked like the balancing of a pair of scales. The greater the advantage offered by provincial elites the more negotiation rights they acquired. On the other hand, malikane, the life-long tax farming system, helped the imperial government to maintain
authority over the provinces. Moreover, vizier households controlled over the iltizam, tax
farming, auctions in the provinces, thus the shared financial interest added more complexity in the association between the centre and provinces.
A new governor arrived at Egypt with a large entourage from Istanbul or another province of the Empire. The people in the governor’s entourage integrated in the provincial administrative, commercial and political cultural system, and established ties with the local households. Likewise, the local groups were eager to relate with the governors’ household in order to extend their communication with the centre after they had left Egypt. This enabled the local groups to attach themselves to the imperial household and other provincial administrations as well as to protect their mutual interest afterwards. This connection between
14 Toledano refers these power centres as ‘kapı’ and mentions that local kapıs modelled themselves the kapı of sultan see
Ehud R. Toledano, “The Emergence of Ottoman-Local Elites (1700-1900): A Framework for Research”, in Moshe Ma’oz and Ilan Pappe eds., Middle Eastern Politics and Ideas: A History From Within, (London, 1997), p. 156
the Empire and Egypt continued for centuries. Quataert claims that this relationship depending on mutual benefit continued until the Ottoman-Russo war of 1768-1774. The war after a long peace period made the imperial centre undersupplied in terms of manpower and
finance, which strengthened the hand of provincial elites.15
Thomas Naff describes eighteenth century’s complexity as varying with respect to
time, place, traditions, and conditions, and observes that the ayan would be merchants,
artisans, guildsmen, government functionaries, land owners, religious authorities, legists and military officers. The common point that gathered these different types at one point was: urban residence and wealth. The ayan controlled the local revenues and security forces, which eventually led to challenge, or in some cases replaced, the Ottoman representatives in the
provinces. However, the ayans needed the approval of the central government for legitimacy.
In this sense, the ayans became recourse for both the central government and the reaya in
some cases.16 In order to maintain their power in the provinces, ‘close relationship with the
central government or support of the local community’ were the two means that ayans
depended on. Investigating the possibility of creating a model ayan, Robert Zens mentions
that ayans used either means, however, suggests that the mamluk beys were the exception in
this case.17 It can be suggested that the mamluk ‘households’ did not need to use either means
in order to maintain their position, as they were an essential element of the local administration in Egypt. However, it is for sure that mamluk beys referred to the central government’s support while positioning themselves in (or outside) the province. Three characters in the mid eighteenth century and their relationship with the central government proves the situation. The first example is Firari Osman Bey, who was compelled to leave
15 Quataert, The Ottoman Empire, p. 48
16 Thomas Naff, “Introduction” in T. Naff and R. Owen, eds., Studies in eighteenth century, (Southern Illinois University
Press, 1977), p. 7-8.
17 Robert Zens, “Provincial Powers: The Rise of Ottoman Local Notables (Ayan)”, History Studies, volume 3/3 2011, pp.
Egypt by his rivals in the 1740s. He left Cairo and moved to Istanbul. In the meantime, his rivals in Cairo claimed him responsible for the unpaid annual tribute. Being held responsible by the central government, Osman Bey made an effort to clear his name. With a successful lobbying in the imperial palace not only did he get rid of the accusations he also earned an arpalık in Rumelia.18 The second example is Ali Bey Gazzawi (1758-59), who was a
counterpart of Ali Bey al-Kabir. Gazzawi took the support of the governor of Egypt, Kamil
Ahmed Pasha (r. 1760), in the competition for being appointed şeyhülbeled when he was
carrying out the duty of emirulhajj in the Hijaz. Kamil Ahmed Pasha provided him a support
of lobbying in the imperial palace and managed to have a decree to be sent to Cairo about
encouraging Gazzawi appointment as the new şeyhülbeled. However, their lobbying failed, as
Gazzawi could not return back to Cairo.19 Finally Ali Bey’s closest man, Mehmed Bey
Ebu’z-zeheb (1772-75) appears as an ally of the central government in the second half of the eighteenth century. Mehmed Bey turned his back to his master after a short time he invaded Syria, and fought back. After eliminating his master, Mehmed Bey was appointed as the new şeyhülbeled by the central government and also even a decree was sent that addressing
Mehmed Bey as Mehmed “Pasha”.20 These three examples demonstrate that the mamluk beys
in Egypt shared some features in common with typical ayans in that they all, from time to
time, relied upon the central government’s help and support.
Although it is claimed that central government could not control and manipulate
provincial actors from Istanbul,21 the eighteenth century witnessed complex conflicts and
agreements between the central government and the local administrators that occasionally demonstrates the opposite. This complexity cannot be explained based on random and single
18 See below chapter IV on the governor, p. 202 19 See below chapter I on the rebellion, p. 69
20 MMD, vol. 8, nr. 694 (date late R 1189/late June 1775) 21 Quatert, The Ottoman Empire, p. 49
instances. Nevertheless, recent historiography contradicts Quataert’s hypothesis of uncontrollable provincial elites. Moreover, we should be mindful of the risk that reducing eighteenth-century Ottoman history to a decentralization paradigm, which may distort our understanding of the actual political environment in the provinces.
Khoury discusses centralization/decentralization paradigm in her study mentioning that the government’s success in imposing effective controls challenges the validity of the
decentralization paradigm in the eighteenth century.22 Her research of Ottoman Mosul from
the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries reveals that the urban and rural society of Mosul actually became better integrated into the Ottoman system in the eighteenth century, the so-called century of decentralization. According to Khoury, the central government’s power and authority was more evident in Mosul in the eighteenth century than in any other period. Her study highlights that the central government managed to organise the provincial provision and manpower effectively with the cooperation of local notables in the borderlands with Iran during this period.23
In addition, Baldwin’s research reveals the strong ties of the Egyptian people with the central government’s bureaucracy where he shows that Egyptians did not hesitate to make
legal applications to the Porte for resolving their problems.24 Depending on inexhaustible
sources of sharia court records, Baldwin introduces a large number of examples on how
Egyptian people cemented close connections with the central government via jurisdiction, when they thought the provincial legal and administrative body failed to help them. For
disputes between reaya and administrators as well as in between reaya, Egyptian people
applied to the Divan-ı Humayun in relation to a wide range of issues including, debts,
22 Khoury, State and provincial society, p. 8. For more detail, see below, pp. 18-20 23 Khoury, State and provincial society, p. 213, 214
property, endowments, inheritances and even quarrels between neighbours. Baldwin mentions
that the unlimited jurisdiction of Divan-ı Humayun proves the sultan’s control and authority.25
Comparison of the Pattern of Decentralization in Egypt with that found in other regions In the first half of the eighteenth century, the emergence of a strong local elite characterizes the Ottoman Empire’s provincial administration. The literature relating to this aspect of Ottoman provincial life in the eighteenth century is both vast and varied; some of it focuses on governance in its local and microcosmic context while other authors are
principally interested in identifying generalized trends and paradigms.26 In her study focusing
on an earlier period, Hülya Canbakal points out that rise of local elites represented “a new
mode of centre-periphery integration”.27 Strong and loyal to the central government in the
first half of the century, existing historiography suggests that the loyalty bonds of those elites loosened in the second half of the century. Egypt experienced a decentralized period with powerful military grandees in the seventeenth century and with mamluk households that
controlled the domestic politics in the eighteenth century.28 The households kept their
importance as mamluks, both men and women, continued to arrive in Ottoman Egypt and to acculturate and localize in these households. These households mostly established strong ties with military regiments, and had influence on local politics as well as military and economic affairs. Mamluk beys and their households formed the group of local notables in Egypt. The Kazdağlı household was the leading household that had a command of Egypt’s political and
25 Baldwin, Islamic Law, p. 59
26 For an account of broader regional trends prevailing in the Arab provinces, see Dina Khoury, “The Ottoman centre versus
provincial power-holders: an analysis of the historiography”, The Cambridge History of Turkey, Vol. 3: The Later Ottoman Empire, 1603–1839, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp.133-156
27 Hülya Canbakal, Society and Politics in an Ottoman Town ‘Ayntab in the 17th century, (Brill: Leiden, Boston, 2007), p. 6.
Hulya Canbakal examines emergence of provincial elites in the seventeenth century in Aintab, a typical, relatively small and less important province between Anatolia and Arab provinces.
financial environment. Strong mamluk beys such as İbrahim Kethüda, Rıdvan Kethüda and Abdurrahman Kethüda were actively involved in the financial and administrational
organisation in Cairo. The Ottoman Empire had to approve some of them as şeyhülbeleds, an
important component of the provincial administration. The şeyhülbeled was often addressed
alongside the governor in the firmans issued by the Ottoman sultan. Whether a member of military regiments or a şeyhülbeled, mamluks beys were loyal to the imperial government and acted under the control of the central government.
Other provinces of the empire in the south such as Aintab, Syria and Mosul were also administered by strong provincial elites, yet, in different forms. These provinces had a common point with Egypt since they were located in close regions. Thus, they were affected by the Empire’s general political situation, yet each experinced their own special circumstances.
Pattern of Decentralization in Syria:
Syria is an important case for the eighteenth century provincial administration of the Ottoman Empire. Karl Barbir’s research reveals characteristic features of a southern province of the empire in the first half of the eighteenth century. From 1714, the central government appointed the governors of Damascus from the same family, al-Azm. As a local element, the Azms provided power from their local roots in Damascus and used it in line with the central government’s desire. They had long tenure of offices and also, other members of the family
were appointed to the neighbouring provinces.29
Although a specific family’s domination in the governorship demonstrates the decentralized administration of the Ottoman Empire, which led to a local autonomy in the province, detailed research demonstrates that the Porte appointed them because the Azm
family administered the province in line with the central government’s expectations. The Azm family’s half century long rule in Damascus was not the beginning of the province’s gradually separation from the Empire. Instead, the Azm family served a useful instrument for the central government, as they reorganized Damascus’s administration for the benefit of the Empire. Barbir considers al-Azm family as representing a skilful blend of Ottoman and local traditions, rather than being an alternative to the central government’s administration. Also, appointing a local figure as a governor, succession of the family members in a province, or having another family member to a neighbouring province was neither a new development in
the Ottoman administrational system in the 1710s, nor it was not peculiar to Damascus.30
Syria was important for the Porte as it sustained a hajj caravan every year. As an organisation, it was not as large as Egypt’s hajj caravan. However, it was significant as it conveyed dynasty’s members, aside from the fact that it represented the sultan as the servant of the holy cities. In the end of the seventeenth century, the organisation of the hajj caravan of Syria failed due to the increasing cost of pilgrimage, the increasing attacks of Bedouins and some greedy hajj commanders. Since this situation damaged the empire’s sovereignty and prestige, the Porte tried to solve the problem by appointing different local figures, even one
certain sherif, as emirulhajj, until 1708. In 1708, the Porte attempted to try a new
combination, and gave the duty of emirulhajj to the governor. The governor of Damascus was
assigned the duty of the emirulhajj, commander of the annual pilgrimage, a very important
duty as the Ottoman sultan considered himself as the servant of the Haremeyn: Mecca and Medina. Thus, the organisation of the caravan was connected to the Porte via the governor.
By assigning the duty of emirulhajj to the governor, the Porte changed the
administrative duty of governor as well. It was limited outside of Damascus and centralized in
30 Barbir, Ottoman Rule, p. 57-63
the province.31 First, the governors of Damascus were no longer expected to attend war
outside of Syria, and in addition they were not appointed as grand viziers in Istanbul any more. In addition, a number of sub provinces were directly attached to the governor’s administration. Barbir asserts that during this period the governor of Damascus had a considerable authority in the province; in the meantime, he was being monitored by the central government in his communication with the elite, (ayan), businessmen, (tujjar), and
people, (reaya).32 The central government gave this authority to the governor, as well as
appointing him as emirulhajj, in order to control three local groups in the province: notables, janissaries, and tribes.33
Nasuh Pasha (1708-1713) was the first governor that carried out the duty of emirulhajj. With the help of the daring and severity of his personal character, Nasuh Pasha controlled the Bedouins, fulfilled the safety of caravan and gained a surplus. He had a large retinue and troops. The central government renewed Nasuh Pasha’s governorship five times, as he was a capable person. However, at every turn, Nasuh Pasha requested a different sancak of Damascus for one of his retainers. When he requested Tripoli and Sidon in December
1713, the central government terminated his office, and his life.34 By 1714, the Porte
appointed the governor from a local family, the Azms. Thus, the tenure of office, which would last for some sixty years, of the Azm family started. The five-year long governorship of Nasuh Pasha and the half-century long governorship of the Azm family serves as a good reflection of the Ottoman Empire’s approach to the administration of local figures. The Porte’s dismissing of Nasuh Pasha and appointing subsequent governors from a local family
31 Barbir, Ottoman Rule, p.13. The centralised administration in the hand of the governor in Damascus is claimed to have
positive effects on the commerce in Damascus. See Mohannad Al-Mubaidin, “Aspects of the economic history of Damascus during the first half of the eighteenth century”, in Peter Sluglett with Stefan Weber, eds., Syria and Bilad al-Sham under Ottoman Rule, (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2010), p. 137
32 Barbir, Ottoman Rule, p. 20 33 Barbir, Ottoman Rule, p. 45 34Ibid, p. 54
shows us that the central government required a certain arrangement in the provincial administration during this period. This certain arrangement of the Porte suggests that the central government supported the groups, which provided what the central government wanted. On the other hand, it ceased the administration of those who acted according to their self-interest instead of the central government, and those who focused on increasing their personal authority in defiance of the central government.
Barbir claims that the first half of the century contrasts with the second half, as the
central government was reluctant to attempt another reorganization. 35 This claim is
compatible with the proposition of Khoury for Mosul, which mentions that the time period after the Russo-Ottoman war of 1768-1774 witnessed a loosening of the central government’s administration in the provinces. In the time period after the 1770s, Syria was affected a number of incidents, which seriously influenced the central government’s position in the province. First, it was the target of an invasion by Mehmed Bey Ebu’z-zeheb. Then, because of Wahhabi-Saudi alliance, Bedouin tribes were displaced and moved to near Damascus, and caused pressure. Finally, Zahir al-Umar appeared as a local authority in Palestine. He was made inactive in 1775 by the central government; however, Jezzar Ahmed Pasha’s rise did not take so long to substitute him. Gürcü Osman Pasha (1760-1771) and Mehmed Pasha al-Azm (1772-1783) both held long tenures as governors of Damascus for long period of time; however, neither managed to achieve a strong stance on behalf of the central government. Barbir claims that the imperial government could not manage to administer the province after 1783. It gave a lot of discretion to the governors, used the notables as an intermediar y between the government and populace, and ignored the problems as long as they were not crucial.36
35Ibid, p. 178
One can observe some similarities in the political culture of Syria and Egypt in the eighteenth century. In the first half of the century, as in the case of Egypt, there was violence between local factors in Syria as well; still, it was not in the form of rebellion against the central government. On the contrary, local factors were trying to affirm their place in the province’s politics. However, in the second half of the century, the imperial government failed to maintain the provincial system that had established in the beginning of the century. Barbir states that these local factors changed their direction from the rivals to representatives
of the central authority, which affected the central government’s authority after the 1760s.37
On the other hand, there are significant differences between Egypt and Damascus in terms of local notables and governorship. First of all, the tenure of office of the governor of Egypt was significantly shorter, mostly only one year, than his counterpart in Damascus. Also, there was no concentration of control in one family like the Azms. While the governor of Damascus was appointed from a local family, the governor of Egypt was appointed among the imperial elites. In Syria, the governor centralized the provincial politics in his sole hand by
attaching the neighbouring sancaks to himself and commanding the hajj caravan. The central
government appointed the governor of Syria as emirulhajj in order to prevent the local groups to become autonomous. Damascus’s centralized provincial administration in the hand of the governor from a local family, with the organisation of the hajj caravan contrasts to the situation in Egypt. The mamluk beys commanded the hajj caravan during the entire century. The central government never changed the mamluk beys’ responsibility, as they were capable to command the caravan in terms of finance and authority, and could provide safety against the Bedouins, except for a few instances. However, we see that, towards the end of the
37Ibid., p. 67
century, the emirulhajj of Egypt challenged the central government via the governor in order
to be assigned more financial sources.38
Pattern of Decentralization in Northern Iraq: The Case of Mosul:
Khoury examines a long period of Mosul, from seventeenth century to mid-nineteenth century. Her study helps us to take a step back and see how the political, social and economic aspects of the Ottoman provincial life changed in an Ottoman province located in southeast. Being a frontier province and a centre for mobilization of troops for wars against Iran, Mosul had a distinctive position for the central government. The central government took advantage of the local elements in order to meet manpower and provision of the army in Mosul. The central government’s approach to the province helped local notables to emerge as households and getting a stronger position against their rivals in the province depended, of course, on the level of their collaboration with the central government. In the first half of the eighteenth century, Mosul experienced an economic expansion and population increase by the Kurdish and Turkish soldiers due to war. Those military members were attached to one or
another janissary regiment, and new comers had conflicts with older ones.39
Provincial notables were in cooperation with the imperial centre from the second quarter of the century. Similar to Syria, the central government co-operated a local family in Mosul, the Jalilis, and maintained the provincial administration as well as deployed the provincial sources for the imperial army. A bilateral agreement continued until the second half of the century. When the Jalilis guaranteed to sustain the imperial army in terms of financial and military support in the war against Iran, the Porte appointed the Jalilis as
38 See below chapter III on the irsaliye, p. 178 39 Khoury, State and provincial society, p. 65
governors. The Jalili family played an important role in revitalizing the trade in the region and
manipulated it in Ottoman Empire’s interest.40
Khoury mentions a transformation in the relationship between the state and provincial society in Mosul in the second half of the eighteenth century. The local elites were reluctant to cooperate as closely with the central government, as they had during the first half of the eighteenth century. The Jalili family worked accordingly to the mutual benefit of each side, and mobilized the troops and provisions until the Russian war. However, during the period after Russo-Ottoman war the relationship between this provincial elite and the central government broke down and never recovered in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.
Nevertheless, the military instability of the imperial army due to the success and failure - the defeat in Belgrade in 1715 and victory ended up with new tax farms being created in the Iranian borderlands. As a result, Mosul notables were left in an ambivalent situation. Yet, they preserved their loyalty with the help of new tax farms in the Iranian border regions. However, the relationship between the provincial elites and the central government became tense after the Russo-Ottoman war (1768-1774), as the local notables’ trust in the imperial elites’ military policies weakened and they hesitated to support the central government any more.
Khoury claims that the uprisings of Ali Bey al-Kabir and Zahir al-Omar reinforced
the violent confrontation between two Jalili households.41 In addition to trust issues, the other
reason for the tenser relationship was the tax monopolization of the Mosuli elite. Khoury states that while the central government was busy dealing with the war and uprisings, the
40 Khoury, State and provincial society, p. 57-58. Khoury confirms Quatert’s claim by saying that the connection between
state and Mosuli elites was effective until 1768. However, the provincial elite and the central government broke up in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.
Mosuli elite had enough time to seize the superiority in rural industry and pastoral production.42
The Case of Egypt: Typical or Exceptional?
The administrative system in Egypt was different from the aforementioned provinces,
as the governor appointed by the central government kept its presence until the early nineteenth century. Under the governor’s management, however, households had a significant control on the finance and land administration of Egypt besides their political influence. They challenged and tried to change the regulations according to their interests. For example, in the second half of the eighteenth century, the members of the households drafted illegal agreements in order to hold a tax farm in the household’s possession. Some mamluk beys did not hesitate to fabricate testaments for a deceased person in order to keep the revenues from villages, which were appointed for the central treasury. However, during the second half of the eighteenth century, the central government detected those agreements, voided them and
endeavoured to keep the income of its treasury.43
Existing historiography claims that mamluk households gained more power against less authoritative governors by the end of the eighteenth century. With the influence of European travellers, some historians claim that the governor became, practically, only the representative of Ottoman Sultan with a small number of soldiers in his entourage, but
especially outsiders considered the mamluk beys as the real administrators in Egypt.44 Anis
mentions that the European travellers and merchants, who were not familiar with the decentralized administration system of the Ottoman Empire, had difficulty in relating to the existence of the Ottoman governor alongside the mamluk beys in Egypt in the late eighteenth
42Ibid., p. 70
43 See below, chapter III on the irsaliye, p. 179-184 44 Luigi Mayer, Views in Egypt, (London, 1801), p. 59
century.45 However, correspondence between Cairo and Istanbul proves that, although the
central government included şeyhülbeled in the administration from the 1730s, the Ottoman
governor in Egypt held the authority over the mamluk beys until the last quarter of the century.
Al-Jabarti’s and Damurdashi’s accounts give us a detailed history of mamluk beys’
struggles in Cairo.46 While supplying us an intricate account of the relationship between
mamluk beys, these narratives’ focusing on the struggles provides a false impression for today’s readers about past political environment. The narration of incessant conflicts between mamluk beys has led the modern reader to perceive the eighteenth century Ottoman Egyptian provincial political milieu as revolving solely around the internal politics of the mamluk beys in Cairo, and to see this arrangement as unstable and insecure for the indigenous people as well as foreigners. However, recent historiography and chapters of this research as well, which based their research on archival documents, demonstrate that the eighteenth century’s provincial politics, provincial administration and management, and relationship with the central government was not solely dependent on the mamluk beys and their struggles. To the contrary, the mamluk beys and their conflicts seem not to have had a very strong impact on Egyptian people’s everyday lives. One would be hard pressed to find a provincial political crisis that affected Egyptian people more than the French expedition at the end of the eighteenth century, or Mehmed Ali’s drastic policies in the early nineteenth century. Even during Ali Bey’s uprising and central government and Mehmed Bey Ebu’z-zeheb’s counteraction against him, the correspondence proves that the operations and organisations including public constructions continued to function as they were supposed to.
45 M. A. Anis, Some Aspects of British Interest in Egypt in the Late 18th Century (1775-1798), unpublished PhD thesis
(University of Birmingham, 1950), p. 93.
46 Abdurrahman b. Hasan Al-Jabarti, Aja’ib al-Athar fi’l-Tarajim wa’l-Akhbar, Abdurrahim Abdurrahman Abdurrahim, ed.,
(Cairo, 1997); Daniel Crecelius and Bakr Abdalwahhab, Al-Damurdashi’s chronicle of Egypt 1688-1755: Al-durra al-musana fi akhbar al-kinana, (Brill, 1991)
In his article on Fayyum, Alan Mikhail helps us to re-locate mamluk beys and their authority and influence in Egypt and relieves us of the necessity of perceiving mamluk beys
as the “only” political actors of Egypt.47 Mikhail proposes, from his research on repairs of
dams, that mamluk factions had little influence in some of the sub provinces such as Fayyum. He is deducting this claim from the correspondence between the small town, Fayyum - provincial capital, Cairo - and the imperial capital, Istanbul, as people of villages were the main performers and addressees of the central government correspondence.
It is possible to carry Mikhail’s proof/determination from the Fayyum case and generalise for the whole of Egypt, as Egyptian people including Cairenes lived free for the most part from the disturbances that characterized political struggle between the mamluk beys. The situation was the same in the neighbouring provinces. When a disagreement happened, the central government usually chose to negotiate with local elites and mamluk
beys via the governors.48 Disagreements between mamluk beys and the central government or
governors did not cause political crisis, even if mamluk beys succeeded in engineering the dismissal of an Ottoman governor. When Ali Bey managed to have Hamza Pasha dismissed in 1766, the Porte appointed Rakım Mehmed Pasha as the new governor. The central government neither started a war against mamluk beys like a dictatorship, nor left the administration of Egypt to mamluk beys like a weak state.
Collaborating with mamluk beys and other gentry, the governor of Egypt was the actual administrator in Cairo in the mid-eighteenth century. Although mamluk beys could dismiss the governors, this did not mean that they did not come to an agreement with the new ones. Even during the exceptional time period of Ali Bey’s uprising (1768-1772), Ali Bey
47 Alan Mikhail, “An irrigated empire: The view from Ottoman Fayyum”, International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol.
42 (2010) No. 4, pp.569-590, p. 570
48 The anecdote in Khoury’s state and provincial society (p. 1) is a good example for the negotiation between the governor